Preventing Pet Boredom During Quarantine

by Lee Chambers

So you’re practicing self-quarantining…thank you for helping to flatten the curve!  If you have pets, they’re probably seeing less outdoor time, too. Indoor cats aren't feeling any change in their lifestyle (except maybe having more face time with their people), but it's a whole different experience if you have a dog, especially one that’s used to a lot of outdoor socialization.  

At Dakin, we spend a good deal of time providing enrichment to our resident animals.  We’d like to pass along a few tips to help your homebound pets ward off boredom.

Dogs

Serve dog meals in food toys like Kongs.  It will take a bit more work for them to get all the food out, but the process will keep them engaged and they’ll enjoy the challenge.

Puzzle toys for dogs are great fun for them, and some double as treat dispensers.  Check out the selection found on Amazon Smile.

Speaking of Amazon, if you’ve got a collection of empty boxes, grab a few small ones.  Keep your dog in another room while you put treats in a few of the boxes, close them up, then put them on the floor.  Allow your pup into the room and let him have fun learning how to sniff out the goods!

Another do-it-yourself enrichment game involves taking an empty cupcake tin (whether 6-cup or 12-cup) and placing treats or kibble into some, but not all, of the cups.  Cover all cups with a tennis ball, and watch your dog figure out where the treats are, and how to get to them.

If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, and your dog enjoys more physical activity, train your dog how to do some tricks like spin around, rollover or sit pretty.  When they learn that tricks get treats, you’ll see what they can do.


Cats

One of the easiest games you can play with your cat is something that young children can teach them.  Take a treat, put it in one of your closed fists, then present both closed fists to your cat. Let them sniff at your hands and wait for them to tap with their paw (or otherwise indicate) the fist they think contains the treat.  If they choose the empty fist, open it and give them a moment to figure out that they need to tap the other fist to open it and get the reward.

Create your own Whack-a-Mole game by taking a small empty box and putting 6 small holes (wide enough for your finger) on the bottom surface of the box.  Cut off one of the side flaps so you can slide your hand into the box, place it on the floor (bottom side up), and call your cat over. Pop your finger in and out of the six holes, giving them the chance to tap your finger with their paw.  If they play too rough, substitute a toy for your finger!

Cats, like children, love bubbles.  Blow a few into the air and see what your kitty will do.

Paper bags are big hits with cats.  Toss one on the floor, and maybe shine a laser pointer at it, then prepare for feline madness!

Another cat favorite?  Pipe cleaners. Twist one around your finger to shape it like a corkscrew, toss it on the floor and watch them pounce.


Small Animals

Here's a treat for a rabbit or guinea pig – take an empty toilet paper roll and stuff it with hay.   They’ll enjoy pulling that apart for hours.  

Make a rat’s day by threading a bunch of Cheerios onto a long piece of string and affixing it inside their cage.

If you have a caged pet, move some of the items in their cage around to keep them stimulated.  When you're done cleaning, put their enclosure in another corner of the cage, or move their food dish to another area.  If you have a litter box trained pet, like a rabbit, keep that box in the same place, but move other items around to keep them mentally stimulated.

Exercise wheels are great for mice and hamsters.  Some rats enjoy wheels too, but in their case, be sure the wheel has a solid surface without wire rungs to prevent their tail from getting caught while running.

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